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Representing Disaster Survivors II: Practical Litigation Tips on How to Succeed in Court and Administrative Hearings

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 93 minutes
Recorded Date: July 11, 2017
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1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
  • Common disaster legal issues
  • FEMA Disaster Assistance
  • How Technology can help
  • Attorneys Disaster Toolkit
Runtime: 1 hour and 33 minutes

For NY - Difficulty Level: Experienced attorneys only (non-transitional)


Natural and man-made disasters have a disparate impact on the low-income community. In the last two years, legal services programs have represented survivors of floods, tornadoes, and contamination of water systems in Flint, Michigan and East Chicago, Indiana.

Dealing with FEMA is challenging for survivors and their attorneys. Legal Services and pro bono counsel are essential to helping these survivors deal not only with FEMA, but also with long-term and complex legal issues that linger after the initial disaster. Fortunately, technological advances continue to provide new tools for attorneys and survivors.

This program was recorded on July 11th, 2017

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Mary Ellen Martinet

Attorney, Office of Chief Counsel (OCC)

Mary Ellen Martinet has been an attorney with the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) for FEMA since 1995 and was named Associate Chief Counsel for the Response and Recovery Legal Division (RRLD) in July 2010. Ms. Martinet works under supervision of the Deputy Chief Counsel and Chief Counsel to lead the RRLD which provides legal counsel and support to the FEMA Office of Response and Recovery on Stafford Act disaster and emergency assistance authorities. Ms. Martinet is also responsible for oversight of the FEMA Disaster Operations Legal Reference (DOLR).

Prior to becoming the Associate Chief Counsel for RRLD, Ms. Martinet served as the Associate Chief Counsel for Field Counsel (2007-2010) and was a senior field attorney for the Field Attorney Cadre. Ms. Martinet served as the primary field attorney for the 1999 Hurricane Floyd Disaster, NC; the 2000 Cerro Grande Fires, NM; the 2001 World Trade Center Disaster, NY; the 2002 Pacific Typhoons in Guam, CNMI, and FSM; the 2003 California Wildfires; and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina Disaster in MS. Additional deployments include the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle Emergency and the 2004 Florida Hurricanes. In all, Ms. Martinet has deployed to over 50 disasters.

Honors and awards include 2001-2002 and 2006-2007 OCC Awards of Excellence, 2010 OCC Shirley Levy Award, 2011 Chief Counsel Award for Accessibility and Client Services, 2011 FEMA Administrator’s Team Award for Innovation, 2012 and 2013 DHS Office of General Counsel Team Excellence Awards; 2016 FEMA Administrator Team Award; and 2016 DHS Secretary Team Award for Meritorious Service for the Oglala Sioux Housing Mission. Before joining FEMA, Ms. Martinet worked for legal aid and immigrants’ rights groups in California.

She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law and is licensed in California.

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Lisa Gavin

Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project Manager
Iowa Legal Aid

Lisa Gavin has been a staff attorney with Iowa Legal Aid since 1995 working under a variety of different grants. In January 2015, she became the project manager of the Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project for Iowa Legal Aid.

Lisa earned her JD at the University of Iowa College of Law.

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David Bonebrake

Program Counsel
Legal Services Corporation

David Bonebrake is a Program Counsel at Legal Services Corporation and is responsible for helping manage LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) Program. TIG funds innovative technology projects that improve quality and access to legal services across the country. David also works on special LSC technology initiatives and speaks regularly on technology-related topics at legal aid conferences. He is currently leading a project funded through the Ford Foundation to evaluate the effectiveness of statewide legal information websites across the country. Prior to LSC, David provided technology support and assistance to the poverty law community at the Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project (LSNTAP). David has worked extensively with the legal aid community on several technology projects, including the introduction of web conferencing software in legal services and the migration of over a dozen large-scale websites to Drupal.

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